This report illustrates why those with access to safe drinking water shouldn’t take it for granted:

Vietnam is a nation crisscrossed by rivers and streams and has one of the longest coastlines in the world: Water is everywhere, yet there is hardly a safe drop to drink, with even much of the bottled water contaminated.

Tran Van Nhi, a scientist at the Vietnam Institute of Biotechnology, told IRIN Hanoi’s water was heavily contaminated with ammonia: “It is 6-18 times higher than the allowed level.”

A small amount of ammonia is not toxic but when it reacts with certain other substances, it can convert to a carcinogen, according to Nhi and other scientists. Nhi also found arsenic levels two to three times higher than acceptable World Health Organization standards.

Most residents boil drinking water as a matter of course, even though high temperatures do not remove arsenic or dangerous heavy metals. …

In June 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 20,000 people living in Vietnam die each year from contaminated water and poor sanitation.

For much more on the topic, read Water, Sanitation and Hygiene from the WHO.

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